this reminds me of some work I did as a college student on utopias and dystopias in literature. One thing that came out of that work was the realization that for a utopia to remain a utopia in literature, rather than a dystopia masquerading as one, was for the utopia to be exclusive. You had to be initiated or pass some test, even it's a simple test such as "finding the place," for it to retain its utopian character. But when you factor in issues of access etc., translating these utopias to our real world reveals that such exclusive utopias, because they don't exist in a vacuum, are also dystopian. in other words: "Community was easy to find there, because there were no differences to overcome." oof.

well said.

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Brilliantly persuasive, as always, my friend, but, perhaps, a bit of stacking of the denotative deck. The tell, rhetorically speaking, was in your bit of rhetorical sleight-of-typing-hand, with the assertion "hospitality is something that transpires between equals." Nowhere, in my brief etymological assay did I discover anything in either the roots of the word "hospitality" and even less so in "restaurant" (or should I say, "restauration," and specifically in the ancient sense of restoring an ailing body) that suggested a transpiration (or even a homely interaction) between equals. Rather, what occurs is almost to its beginnings (hospitality is, indeed, famously defined in the Quran) between host and guest. And I might add, always, until about the later centuries of the Middle Ages, a "guest" paid nothing. There is the antique strain of giving that informs the role of the host, and of the household. There is the requirement among even the lowliest and poorest of Bedouin households that one upholds the three-day rule, welcoming, gladly I might add, even strangers to partake of food and lodging, and Muhammed would add (does add), even enemies, *as if* equals. Or perhaps there is a buried ellision indicated as to what you meant. The irony you allude to at one point is, as the tired expression goes, in the DNA of the manipulative contrivances of an industry that describes itself, in defiance of a millennium of meaning, as one of "hospitality." ... "Just point your RFID gizmo in my direction sir, or use your paperless checkout privilege, whichever makes you feel less..." 'Twas not, of course, ever thus, as you point out. And I only hope, as I venture out after, essentially, almost three years of sequestration, that there is some shred of what I call of the relationship between my favorite hangs and me as a "regular"... It's not an accident that among my friends I count people I met originally because I became a habitué of the establishments they created in order to make a living, the sort of fellow that, when the chef de cuisine saw me through the wide-screen pass through window at which he peered constantly into the room, and would send a plate of a starter to my stool at the bar. And it was a privilege that traveled with me, when I quit my home of 30 years, and the neighborhood we (you and I) shared, to a new home 300 miles southward, where I knew no one. Though not too long after the migration, I learned it was same as it ever was, when, at a new neighborhood hostelry, which we had frequented sufficiently to be greeted with spontaneous smiles that employed the deeper facial muscles, and a drink was placed in front of me, compliments, it turned out, of another patron. When I sought out my benefactor, I saw a face that somehow I recognized, but couldn't immediately place, and then remembered it was the barkeep of yet a different gastropub (forgive the expression) in another neighborhood five miles in a different direction. That's hospitality.

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Hullo Howard! Lovely to hear from you.

You're right, it's not explicit in any of the resources I link to that hospitality is a thing that transpires between equals. I was over-compressing.

I'll call your attention to 2 points:

1. The wikipedia page on hospitality does contain the line "However, it still involves showing respect for one's guests, providing for their needs, and treating them as equals."

2. Implicit in the antique definitions to which you refer is the idea that the host is in a position superior to the guest, hence the emphasis on the hosts' duty to treat guests as equals, and the creation of a sort of temporary equality through reciprocity. This wound up being a lot to unpack in this essay (I tried, in an earlier draft), so I left it out.

I'm glad to hear the establishments in your parts are being as hospitable as you expect!

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And always lovely TW, to receive your missives, through various channels (I've been a subscriber to Art of Eating since Ed Behr's father was his only salaried employee; I was thrilled to see you had become a contributor... nice counterpoint, stylistically and otherwise, to his voice). I had originally considered responding with a piece I thought of calling "The missing N" in reference to the ill-begotten practice of adding the "n" to the word "restaurateur," which of course refers to its origins (as a noun, identifying a venue, not a practitioner) in an establishment that provides usually a single dish to guests, a restorative concoction that promises better health and renewed vigor, to the ailing and the traveler. In defense of the evolution of the venue to a more varied selection—importantly, to offering the command and preference of the diner from choices on a bill of fare, rather than accepting what I think is still called pot luck; the implications of these, the derivation and provenance, I think carry implications that bear significantly, and resonantly in their evolving deterioration (as you note), on the thesis of your essay. But here I am again, running off at the keyboard. I'll stop. But don't you do that... Keep writing.

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